March Friday Favorites

Mae&MelBali final
I’m really loving writing this post each month. I love that Crystal decided to make it a link up. :) It’s fun to write about my favorite things, but it’s also a ton of fun to read about what everyone else is loving, too. Make sure you check out the link up over at her blog.

And I’m feeling pretty proud of myself this month, too…read on to hear about at least what I consider a major victory in my fashion life. Which may seem a little self centered, but hey…some days we have to celebrate the small things.

😉

Ok, that was goofy, but that tends to be me most days. In fact, I was just telling a friend that on that personality quiz, Which Friend Are You?…I am always, ALWAYS Phoebe. It must be my running. Or the random songs I sing…yeah, most likely that. 😉

Well, I can keep getting more random or I can tell you a little about some of the things that are topping my favorites list right now. Let’s do that before I confess that I had a handful of jellybeans for breakfast…

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Read

I must be stuck in a huge rut, but I haven’t been doing a ton of reading this month, though I’m trying to be more consistent with Bible reading. My journaling Bible has helped a lot…and though the giveaway is over, you can read more about that journey here. It’s not a perfect one at all…but I’m thankful.

Also, I did finally start reading The Hardest Peace…the same weekend sweet Kara went to be with Jesus. It’s a hard read, and I’m taking it slowly because blubbering-Mel isn’t really a very functional Mel. This book is completely undoing me…and I’m also aching so much for her sweet family right now. Will you join me in prayer for them?

Also, a dear friend wrote the book, 31 Days to Coming Alive…and it’s so, SO good that I had to read it again. She’s just funny, insightful, and a breath of fresh air…you can nab the Kindle version for a steal, or you can get it in paperback, too. Seriously. Just buy it. (Also, I can’t wait to meet her in real life someday…I might have also invited myself to go to Nepal with her the next time she goes.) 😉

I’m determined to give myself some grace for the months when I feel restless and don’t read many words. But the ones I’ve read this month have been good.

Watch

Well, I’m not sure exactly what I’ve been doing with my time because watching anything hasn’t really happened, either.

Lately, hubby and I have spent a few nights each week watching an episode or two of Friends. (Thank you, Netflix.) We just laugh together, and it’s time well spent. I need it.

I also really want to see the new Cinderella, but I’m not sure that my very active four year-old would actually sit through a movie that is an hour and 53 minutes long. So I might be begging a grown up friend to go with me instead. :) Have you seen it? Is it as amazing as I’m hoping it is?

And I started watching God’s Not Dead the other night, and it’s awesome, but I also fell asleep halfway through because it was after 1 a.m. when I started it. (I just couldn’t sleep, and after an hour of praying for everything and everyone I could think of, I decided to watch a movie. Cue sleep.) 😉 I’m looking forward to finishing it this weekend. (And if you stream Netflix, it’s available there.) :)

Wear

Ok, Y’ALL.

LOOK.

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I. WORE. EARRINGS.

And now I’ll stop with the capital letters. 😉 I’m just really stinkin’ proud of myself for finally wearing them. I’m sorta lovin’ them, too.

And so, of course, I took a selfie. The big, dangly ones seem to be winning out right now, and these are definitely my favorite. My hubby bought them for me the weekend we went away to Galena, and I adore them, and I actually don’t think they take over my head.

So if they do, don’t tell me. 😉

I seem to be in love with dresses right now, too. I have no idea…NONE…what has happened to this girl with a twinge of rebel in her, this girl who scoffed at dresses for over a decade following Bible college. Apparently they got cute…and maybe I grew up a little, too. 😉 (And Target has a buy one, get one 50% off sale this week. That’s not really doing me any favors…)

Listen

This is always a hard one for me. So I’ll tell you a story instead. :)

Our due date was the 14th, and I knew it would be a really tough day. Because as much as we mamas know that a due date is really only a ballpark number, it was etched on my heart for months. I didn’t want to be all boo-hoo over it, but it was a really emotional week…one when I didn’t know what I needed but I’m thankful God did.

And then a friend just asked, Hey, what are you doing on Saturday?

And it meant the world that she just wanted to spend some time together. We ended up grabbing a coffee and wandering Goodwill (which is one of our favorite things to do) and mostly just talking…

and it was so, SO good for my heart.

It was also a reminder that sometimes we just need to take the time to listen and love and be. She’s in such a busy season of life, and she still took that time for a friend.

I’m so grateful for friendship and for a Father Who meets us where we are. Even when we feel lost.

And while that may not have been quite what the word Listen is intended for, it’s where I went with it today. Plus, time with a dear friend is always my favorite and it should make the list somehow. :)

I’m also missing the sound of the ocean, and that kind of fits under listening, too, doesn’t it? 😉 That’s why I chose the photo I did…I love looking at me and Mae in Bali…sigh. The beachThe tropics. Honestly, I’ve been pretty homesick for Indonesia lately. I’m a restless girl with nomadic tendencies who has chosen to put roots down…and that makes things tough some days. Loving two places…always missing one.

It’s the life He’s given us, though, and I’m grateful even when I’m homesick.

Anyway…there you go, at least for the month. :)

Lots of favorites…lots more I didn’t share, too.

What are you loving today?

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Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: Why We Probably Won’t Ever Rescue a Stray Cat Again

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo I decided that a sunrise photo from the upper floor in our Indo house was a much better picture for you today than one that actually goes with this story. I loved seeing this so many mornings…what a reminder that His mercies are new every single morning.

Oh, late-March Monday morning in the Chicago burbs.

You sure got me.

SNOW. Really?!

Ok, I might need to confess that my brain has this thing where when the calendar turns to March, I suddenly think that life should be daisies and green and NO. MORE. SNOW. (I realize that it IS still March in the Midwest.)

And alas, spring is not to be just yet, and here I sit looking out my dining room window, watching the inches of white fluff pile up onto Mae’s swing set, the same one she was finally able to play on in the last weeks after a frigid winter.

But I’ll get over it because there’s coffee and I’ve got words to share.

First of all, I took sort of a little unplanned hiatus from Indo stories the last two Mondays. My heart needed a break to process life, and it was time well spent.

Life is good, it really is, and I’ve got things to share. Soon. (AND they’re already written which is, like, a miracle.)

But today I want to keep doing what I said I was going to…sharing my stories and giving you a glimpse into Indo life. :)

This story is one that came up in a conversation with friends who were visiting last week. I warned hubby that I was going to share it…complete with maybe a little drama. 😉

His response? I’d expect nothing less from you.

He knows me well…and I love him. Truly.

And when I read this story, I’m reminded that I’m really blessed to be sharing this life with him.

Thanks for reading. :)

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36

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28 (NIV)

Tobin and I laugh now about a lot of things that have happened to us…and not just the Indonesia stories, though those adventures do seem to provide quite a bit of entertainment for people even a few years after our return to the States.

I’ve come to accept the fact that adventure just seems to find us…something that I have truly learned to appreciate and value.

Because hindsight is 20/20, it’s always easier to look back and smile. For one thing, my husband is here, home with me, and our family is safe and healthy and happy.  But there were a few days in March of 2008 where every possible scenario ran through my head…the kinds when I feared a life without him.

So, it’s no secret to anyone who knows us that we love animals.

We brought home a golden retriever puppy when we’d barely been married a year. We had nothing but instant love for the newest member of our family…love to the point of, less than two years later, purchasing a one-way plane ticket to Indonesia for him. (Scoff not…at the time, it cost more to get him there than it cost for both of us. Combined.) But that’s just what you do for family.

Less than a year into our Indonesia life, we adopted Sammy…our other golden. Our lives were suddenly full of happy puppy days and tons of golden retriever love…we love it that way still, even now that we have a daughter, who only just makes the love overflow even more in our house.

Neither of us had ever been remotely interested in owning a cat though we have nothing against them. But in Indonesia, it almost felt like it made more sense than it didn’t. At our first house, especially, we had quite a rat problem that, thankfully, the dogs were able to somewhat keep under control, but we thought a cat might help keep them out of the house completely. Still, we never pursued actually getting one.

And then one Thursday night, my husband came home from the high school boys’ Bible study he co-led and immediately came to find me. Almost out of breath, he told me that he’d found a cat about a block away, huddled on the side of the road. It had been there for hours, just bait for another, bigger animal. He said it looked sick, and would I be okay if he decided to bring it home so we could take care of it?

I was a bit shocked that he asked, but I quickly agreed.

If only we had known what was coming.

That night we noticed, almost immediately, that there was something severely wrong with this cat. It could barely walk without falling over and would twitch almost constantly. We set it up with a litter box, food, and a blanket in a box in a spare bedroom and closed the door for the night.

I secretly wondered if there was a point to even trying to help it. The cat was in really bad shape, but we figured it wouldn’t hurt to see what happened for a few days.

Oh, a few days…we truly had no clue what those “few days” would actually look like.

The next morning Tobin was up early, checking on our new friend. He was sitting on the bed, holding the cat and petting it, when Sammy nosed his way into the bedroom, immediately frightening the cat.

The cat’s reaction? Was to sink its teeth deep into Tobin’s hand.

Here we are…5:30 a.m. on a Friday morning and dealing with a cat-from-who-knows-where bite.

Not good.

I immediately got on the internet, and…to this day I have no idea why…looked up symptoms for rabies. We always hear about the foaming mouth stuff when it comes to rabies…never the symptoms that precede it.

Guess what?

One of the early signs is neurological issues…including twitching.

We made a quick, somewhat frantic, call to our school PA and tried to come up with some type of plan.

Let’s recount the facts…Indonesia. Possible rabies. We had no idea what to do…with the responsibilities of life staring us down.

While I got ready for school (and desperately tried NOT to freak out) Tobin called around and found people to cover his classes. Following the orders of our PA, he hopped on his bike and drove to the nearest hospital where rabies vaccinations could possibly be available.

I went to school; I had every intention of keeping life that day as normal as possible, but my emotions were exploding so much I could barely stay calm. After teacher devotions that morning, a friend offered to take my class for the first few minutes so I could get myself together.

And I finally cried.

Once I got the tears out, I went downstairs to my classroom, streaky eyes and all. My students, ever the prayer-warriors, wanted nothing more than to pray for my husband, and so that’s what we spent our Bible class doing. :)

Tobin showed up later that morning with the news that he hadn’t been able to find a locally made rabies vaccination, but that the hospital had given him a Tetanus shot.

I wanted to be snarky and make a comment about the fact that a TETANUS SHOT probably wouldn’t do much good, but I held it in.

I knew he was panicking, too…we just had different ways of showing it.

He had found an imported-from-France rabies vaccination in town, but our out-of-pocket expenses would be over $500…and so he was trying to find a local one first. Knowing that he had a window of 24 hours, he spent most of the day looking but eventually went back that afternoon for the imported vaccination.

So…rabies vaccination: check.

We thought it was over. (Well, once he finished the series of shots that would happen over the course of the next few weeks.)

But during a school music concert that evening, Tobin noticed something.

A redness creeping up his arm.

At the suggestion, again, of our PA, he took a Sharpie and marked how far the redness had spread. We were alarmed, a few hours later, to discover that the infection was progressing at a scary speed.

Oral antibiotics were begun the next day, but the redness continued to creep…and we were starting to worry.

In almost a curious way, Tobin asked our PA, So what will happen with this infection if we let it go? Will it eventually just go away?

She wasn’t being cruel, just direct, but her reply? No, it will kill you faster than the rabies.

We now realized that we needed to get this thing under control. But the problem was that every option was being tried. It wasn’t like people were sitting around watching Tobin get worse. They were trying everything.

And speaking of control, I was having major control issues by now.

Because cat bites, international medical care or the lack thereof…they don’t teach you how to deal with those things is training.

And I was terrified.

There was nothing I could do to help my husband, and I was scared he might not be okay.

As the oral antibiotics continued to fail, our PA finally found a series of antibiotic shots that, thankfully, worked.

The red that had crept halfway to Tobin’s elbow by this time was finally stopping and even receding a bit.

After several more shots and a few more weeks, the swelling and red were completely gone though Tobin still had a scar from the bite.

And we were so incredibly thankful…like the kind where I really can’t express our thankfulness in words.

I never imagined we’d be in a place like that…a place where something happened and there was nothing we could humanly do to help.

God taught me a lot during those few days. That He’s got it worked out, and when things seem hopeless, He’s still got a plan.

No matter where we are.

Oh, and the imported shot that cost us $500? Insurance paid every single penny. God is pretty amazing, isn’t He? :)

_____________________

The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :)

Sig

When Doodling Brings You Closer to God {and a GIVEAWAY!!!}

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This is a hard thing to admit, but I struggle opening my Bible some days.

Many of the days.

It’s been a struggle for years, and I attribute-without-blaming it to the fact that I attended a Bible college for five years, where the Bible inadvertently became more of a textbook than a gift.

I’ll never forget the first week of my freshman year…the one when we were required to read the entire book of Genesis. I caught myself audibly grumbling as I stayed up well past midnight to finish the required reading. While I’d never been super-crazy-Bible-reading woman, I was pretty good about reading my Bible…and I sure wasn’t enjoying any of this.

Plus, it was a total “On Your Honor” system…did I read it? Yes or No. Circle one.

Oh, goodness, there were days when I was tempted to fudge…but who lies at a Bible college?

And so I squandered sleep and fun and many other things in order to tell the truth about my Bible reading.

And while the whole required reading thing isn’t what this post is about, I know it’s a lot of the reason why I still don’t always view reading the Bible as an enjoyable activity.

It’s just that I don’t always crave God’s Word like I should.

Today I’m over at God-sized Dreams, sharing about a surprising way I’ve learned to enjoy reading the Bible again. Will you join me there?

And, P.S. There’s also a giveaway you won’t want to miss!

😉

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Sig

Thinking of Her Today

MelRiver final
I’ve sort of been pounding this post out, over and over, in my head for quite some time. Except it’s changed every single time, and I’ve struggled to find the perfect words for it all.

So I’m just going to let go of the perfect and write.

I know that none of this is going to be wrapped up in a pretty package with a sparkly bow. Sometimes life just doesn’t look like that, even with a sparkle-lovin’ four year-old in the house.

But I’ll try.

Today is our due date for her. March 14, 2015. And while I know that doesn’t necessarily mean anything, I know it’s a date that is forever etched on the heart of this mama who carried her little one for much too short of a time.

Today, tomorrow…this weekend, this month, even this past year. It’s all been a hard sort of grief…the what-would-have-been kind that creates an aching hole and takes my breath away. It comes and goes and it usually comes at the most inconvenient times. (Like when I’m walking through a store or when I’m putting on my eye makeup or when I’m sitting in church with no tissues. Especially then and holy snot. Seriously. This should be a lesson learned.) 😉

I don’t suppose I really expected these days to be easy. I mean, if things had gone the way I wanted, I’d be cuddling our sweet newborn right now instead of writing about how much I wish I was.

But today my jeans fit (well, mostly) and my sleep is less-interrupted and my arms are empty.

And there are many days when I fall into my Father’s arms and tell him what I’ve said (or tried to say) since it all happened…that it’s ok and that I’ll trust Him. But there are also days when it’s really hard to do that, and I still wonder. A lot.

Because this wasn’t my plan, and the longer and harder I think about an entire lifetime without our sweet Carly, the more painful the ache becomes.

I’ve tried to fill up life as much as possible lately. We went away last weekend and I’ve tried to stay busy this week. I’ve got plans with a friend and some time with my hubby and Mae today, friends coming over for dinner tomorrow night, and more friends visiting next week.

Life is still full and it’s still beautiful, but there are also days when the hole is so present…like today.

I’ve told myself that if I get through the weekend, I will have survived one of the hardest weeks of my life. I’m not a dummy…I know I won’t magically feel better the moment the sun is up on Monday morning, but there’s a piece of me that says I might find a little more hope.

I might. I even think I will.

But right now…well, my family is walking a hard, grief path. We’re breathing through it and finding smiles and even laughs…knowing that she’s in heaven smiling and laughing and probably chasing Andre. (Or, being chased by him.) 😉

And I’ve been trying to find ways to honor her because that’s what we should do. The fact that we never held her on earth doesn’t mean she’s any less our daughter.

We hung a special print in our house, and I’ll tell you about it another day because I want to, but that story needs to wait.

I framed a quote to sit next to the stuffed lamb we bought for her, the one Maelie hugs every day and Oh. My. Heart. It breaks and it melts.

I bought some paper lanterns to let go, but I’m scared we’re going to set something on fire…so we’ll see if that one actually happens. 😉

And we pray about her and ask God to hold her for us since we can’t be there to cuddle her and cover her with the millions of kisses she would have had.

And none of it feels perfect, but it feels right.

We’re honoring her the best we know how.

Today is my due date. Would you lift us up? This grief stuff…it’s hard.

But we also know our Father is holding us. And holding her, too.

And there’s peace in that…and the promise that one day we’ll hold her, too.

quote for baby Carly final 2 watermark

Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: A Sweet Friendship

 IbuMae&Mel final

Well, Monday. Hi there.

I’m having a hard time believing that this one isn’t out to get me just a little.

I had the stomach flu all weekend…it was a weird one. Lets just say I was pretty miserable, but I didn’t throw up at all. (Thank you, God, for that part.) I’m still exhausted. Still not really very hungry. And I’m pretty sure I reached my goal weight in just two days. And I spent those two days praying that no one else in our family…or on the planet…gets this because OY.

And now I’ll quit talking about being sick and about how I’ve barely had any coffee in the last 72 hours. (Which could be the biggest record ever. Just throwing that out there.) 😉

There are so many stories I want to tell y’all about Indo…and some of them I still need to write because they’ll pop into my head, and I’m like, Oh! I forgot about that one! And that also always, ALWAYS happens in the shower or when I’m driving or while I’m sitting in church…when I. CAN’T. EXACTLY. DOCUMENT. ANYTHING. (Though I may have blogged something from my phone during church once. I swear it was related to the sermon, though.) 😉

But today, I just thought I’d tell you about someone really special to me.

Let me be up front and just say that while there were things that were rough about life in Indo, there were also a million blessings. And one of them came to me in a most unexpected way. I honestly wasn’t thrilled, at first, about having someone working in my home every day. Yes, I wasn’t all that happy about having a housekeeper.

Really, Mel?! 😉

But a week into it all, I knew that this woman would be a welcome, special part of our lives there. And she was. I miss her every day…truly, I do. (And not just because she did all the laundry and cooked for me!) 😉

Sometimes there are people who come into our lives…and they change us forever.

Ibu S was one of them. She will always be our family.

And though words are hard to find for people who mean that much, I tried. :)

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14

“Why did you do all this for me?” he asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.”

“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing.”
E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

She showed up at our house at seven in the morning, one week after we arrived in Indonesia.

I could barely talk to her as I relied on my English to Indonesian dictionary for virtually every word. (I sometimes think about how badly I probably botched the Indonesian language during that first conversation…I don’t even want to know.)

She washed our clothes, cleaned our (very dirty) house, took care of our dog, and cooked chicken teriyaki and rice for us.

I instantly took to this woman.

Ibu S.

And I loved her…not because she did all of the house work so I didn’t have to. :)

She had the kindest smile…that was what told me we were friends. Even if we couldn’t talk to each other.

I communicated with her using that ridiculous dictionary for the first year.

As time went on, we learned more about each other…especially once I could speak a little of the language.

She would cook us dinner almost every night…and she could cook. Yum. I still crave her nasi goreng and mie goreng and wish that I’d taken the time to learn to make it well and not just from a packet. (Though it’s not too bad that way, either.) 😉

She could fold laundry with the best of them. Even after years of having my clothes washed, dried, ironed, and folded for me (yeah, I was spoiled), I would still smile each time I’d see the meticulously folded, organized-by-color, stacks of shirts and pants in my lemari (closet).

She had an infinite amount of patience for the craziness that ensued when our dogs were being their usual, hyper selves. And she loved them anyway.

She would squash cockroaches for me after I’d squeal in disgust over the latest creature attempting to inhabit my home.

She would make me cake with frosting, homemade no less, when I was pregnant, sick, and the only thing I wanted in the land of not-very-good-cake was CAKE. 😉

Sometimes she would talk to me. About struggles, about things that brought her joy. And sometimes we would cry together.

But usually, we would laugh.

We finally visited her in her home during our fourth year in Indonesia. She and her family treated us like royalty, cooking a meal that I’m sure cost the equivalent of what she’d make in several days. She showed me around her kitchen and then took me out to the little sitting area in the back of her house. Tobin sat in the living room and taught her husband and son a card game that didn’t require too much Indonesian.

We would return to her house a few times, and each time she treated us as if we were the most important people in the world.

We would laugh together often. Sometimes the way I would mess up whatever I was trying to say in Bahasa Indonesia was enough to get us giggling. She knew I had said something wrong, and so did I, and that was enough for the laughter to ensue. (And I may or may not be talking about the year I spent saying, I’m a house instead of my house. Yes, yes, subject placement is an extremely important thing to pay attention to. Clearly I did not.) 😉

During my last year in Indonesia, I was pregnant and very sick, and she took care of me. She made sure I ate and would make me noodles in the morning and hold my head while I threw up. On the rare occasion that I didn’t make it to the bathroom, she would insist on cleaning up after me.

She couldn’t wait to meet my little girl, and when we realized that I wouldn’t be delivering Mae in Indonesia, I think both of our hearts broke.***

During my last days in Bandung, there were many hugs exchanged, but our emotions were stuffed beneath the surface.

Until the very last morning.

It was as if God took away all language difficulties and gave us the gift of being able to truly speak to each other. I gave her a few gifts, and she looked carefully at each of them, especially studying the pictures. I thanked her for all she had done for us and for being a friend.

Then the tears began to drip, and we looked at each other.

The five years of fumbling through communication, of wanting so badly to connect on a deeper level, and finally being able to, were coming to an end.

I gave her one final hug, and it lasted a long time. When we finally pulled away, she placed her hand on my belly to say goodbye to my baby girl.

We were just two friends who stumbled through language barriers for years, but we emerged with a beautiful friendship. What an amazing reminder that true friendship is more about heart than it is about having a common language.

I sobbed as we pulled away from the house and waved goodbye to this dear woman who had given so much of herself to us. In our time together, she had become more than our pembantu and friend; she was a member of our family, and we will never, ever forget her.

***Ibu S got to meet our sweet Mae last year when we visited Indonesia. It was one of the most precious moments of my life.

Mae&Ibu final
_____________________

The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :)

Sig